Mostly full frame, should I harvest?

Hi Friends!

I’ve got two hives and I’m looking for advice on how to handle each. This is my first season, so I’m a total novice. Both have 7 flow frames, and neither is fully capped. One has two brood boxes and the other swarmed and only has one brood box. I’m in Seattle and the blackberry flow is coming to an end (but I’ve been watching the side windows and they’re still capping more honey. I assume they’re still increasing the honey stores, and I don’t need to harvest until they’ve stopped adding and capping honey), and I want to make sure the girls are ready for the winter.

My end cells (next to the back window) have no honey in them at all. Initially they put a bit of honey in, but they’ve since removed it. I’ve opened the hive and inspected the frames, and the hive with two brood boxes a few of the flow frames are 70-80% full, but the end cells aren’t at all. The other hive swarmed and is only about 30-40% capped. There are bees sticking their heads into cells all over the flow frames.

I’ve got a few questions—I’d appreciate any advice you have!

  1. My plan is to wait till new honey stops being added and capped, then harvest, wait a day and remove the flow supers, then add 2:1 sugar water to help them prepare for autumn / winter. Does that make sense as a plan? When do I need to start sugar feeding for the winter?

  2. Is there a reason they’re not filling the end cells?

  3. Can I harvest a frame that’s 75% capped without squishing the bees that are sticking their heads into the cells? (I’m worried that when I turn the key to start the flow, I will squish and kill a lot of bees). I’m getting close to the end of the season, and I think this may be about as much as they fill on this hive.

  4. What do I do at the end of the honey flow with the other hive that only has 30-40% capped cells? There are bees with their heads in the cells that I’m worried about killing, and the honey isn’t ready to be harvested, but I know I shouldn’t leave the super on over the winter because there’s so much extra space and it’ll freeze the bees. (Similar question for the other hive, which has at least one frame that has 80% coverage with uncapped honey—hopefully they’ll cap it, but what do I do if the season ends and it’s not capped? I can’t just take it off and leave it for the winter, so what do I do with all that uncapped honey?)

Thank you!!

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I am also interested in the answers to this post. (Michigan)

Update: I don’t know if I did it right, but I ended up harvesting in mid August so I could do a varroa treatment before autumn. I got ~5 gallons of honey in my first year between two Flow hives (I live in Seattle).

  1. When to start sugar feeding? I sugar fed and the bees took a lot of it, so I assume they needed it.

  2. Never figured out why they didn’t fill the ends.

  3. Looks like I killed about 3-4 bees while harvesting / turning the key, since the Flow frames weren’t full.

  4. I harvested everything. I got a spectrometer and the honey was about 18% moisture, so it seems to have been a good time to harvest! The frames weren’t fully capped or filled, but it worked out OK.

Hope that’s helpful to someone else!